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Eden Hazard eyes Olympics with Belgium, but obstacles ahead

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Eden Hazard is about to leave Chelsea for Real Madrid, but he also eyes another new squad: the Belgium Olympic team.

The star forward told a Belgian coach that he wants to play at the Tokyo Olympics, but significant obstacles are in the way for him to be an overage exception next year.

“Hazard has already asked me if he could come to Tokyo if we qualify,” Belgian Under-21 coach Johan Walem reportedly said last week, according to a Marca translation. “If we qualify, I will stick with the group that played at the [U21 European Championship]. But I already know that picking a squad for an Olympics will be difficult.”

Inherently difficult. Olympic men’s soccer teams are typically under-23 affairs, but each nation is allowed to pick three overage players. These exceptions included Neymar and Ryan Giggs at the last two Olympics.

But adding an overage star typically comes at the expense of a player who helped a nation qualify for the Olympics, such as at the European U21 Championship later this month. The top four at that event will be Europe’s representatives at Tokyo 2020.

Belgium must get out of a tough group at Euro U21s, one that includes Spain and Italy.

But if Belgium’s junior players get out of the group and qualify for the Olympics (for just the second time since 1928), Hazard would have a strong argument to be added for the Olympics. He won the Silver Ball as the second-best player at the 2018 World Cup, where Belgium placed third, its best finish ever.

“Right now, I have more than 30 players and reducing this to 23 for the Euros was a hellish task, and reducing it to 18 [for the Olympics] would be impossible,” Walem said, according to the report.

Hazard’s situation is complicated by the fact he would be a centerpiece of Belgium’s team at the 2020 European Championship, which end 11 days before the start of the Olympic soccer tournament.

In past Olympics, clubs have been under no obligation to release players for the Games. In summer 2016, Neymar did not play Copa America Centenario and in exchange was allowed to play at the Rio Olympics.

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First South Korean Olympic torch bearer announced

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Park Ji-sung, a retired Manchester United midfielder, will be the first South Korean torch bearer for the PyeongChang Olympic torch relay on Oct. 24.

The ceremonial flame lighting will take place in Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics.

The first torch bearer there will be a Greek, as is tradition, followed by Park.

The flame will later fly from Greece to Incheon International Airport near Seoul for a 101-day trek through South Korea before the Feb. 9 Opening Ceremony.

Park, now 36, played for South Korea at the 2000 Sydney Olympics at age 19 before appearing in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

Winter Games organizers published a video outlining the torch relay route.

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MORE: North Korea qualifies for PyeongChang Olympics

Usain Bolt has ‘a lot of offers’ from soccer teams

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A torn hamstring will apparently not keep Usain Bolt from his long-talked-about pursuit of soccer.

“We have a lot of offers from different teams, but I have to get over my injury first and then take it from there,” Bolt said while in Sydney this week, according to the Daily Telegraph in Australia.

What those offers entail, and who extended them, are not clear.

Separately, Bolt spoke with former longtime Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson while attending a United-Leicester City match on Aug. 26.

“I said, if I get fit, will you give me a trial, and he said give me a call and we’ll see what happens,” Bolt said, according to Australia’s 9 News. “So, we’ll see how that works out.”

Bolt has been linked to possibly practicing with his favorite Premier League club or playing in a United exhibition-type match for years.

Bolt also said last year that he expected to train with German club Borussia Dortmund soon after his retirement from track and field after last month’s world championships. Bolt and Dortmund already have a tie-in with apparel sponsor Puma.

“I wouldn’t say I’m the most skilled football player, but I notice that it doesn’t take a lot of skills nowadays,” Bolt said, according to 9 News. “I think I’ll have to learn a lot more passing and control and seeing the game at a different level, but I play a lot of football with my friends, and I think I’m pretty good.”

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